The assignment-giving portion of the holidays is always a bit of a nail-biter.
If your friend or relative is doing the main bit of cooking — say, the turkey or the roast — very often sides and breads and drinks are handed out, one by one, to those attending.
What's best to get in this arena? Probably not the stuffing, because, let's be honest, you'll eat the stuffing before you arrive at your holiday dinner destination, or at least like 75 percent of it. Rolls, too, are the same. Not even worth debating.
You want to be picked for the pies. Why? Because pick up a pie or some turkey-shaped cookies or a nicely frosted cake and there's no way you can possibly dig into your assigned dish, pre-Thanksgiving, without leaving noticeable tracks. (The same absolutely cannot be said for stuffing, or any casserole dish, which are full-on tracks-coverable.)
So where to find holiday-ready pastries around Southern California? Call ahead to make sure you can slip your order in, or just stop by, and see what sweets are at ...
Magnolia Bakery: The West Third Street shop, know for its cake-y delights, always steps up to the (dessert) plate when it comes to seasonally thematic foodstuffs. The Magnolia Thanksgiving cupcakes arrive in all of the hues of fall — orange, brown, and such — and there are wee turkeys atop each. In the pie department? Look for pumpkin praline, various fancy apples, and more.
Porto's Bakery & Cafe: Whether you go Glendale or Burbank or Downey, you're dealing with SoCal dessert royalty when you stroll in bearing a beautiful cake or pie from this local treasure. But what to choose? The Thanksgiving Tres Leches, the Thanksgiving Mango Mousse, or the order-24-hours-ahead Thanksgiving Turkey, a "moist pumpkin cake with pecans and cream cheese filling"? Choices.
Crave Dessert: Brown butter anything is pretty much a winner when it comes to autumn edibles, but when it's involved with pumpkin cake, consider your task of finding an elegant dessert done. The "small batch dessert bakery" is on Washington Boulevard, and there are other surprising sweets that are readymade for walking in the door with on Thanksgiving Day. While ahead-orders are the thing, the store has "limited stock available" on its store shelves.
simplethings restaurant: Pies rule here, both steak-y, savory, dig-in-able goodies and the sweet things, too. If you need something on the sweet side for the dinner you're attending, but like a little zing, look to the current Chef's Special Pie, the chipotle pumpkin pie. Will you tell your pals to expect a little kick when they finally take a bite? That's up to you. (Be nice and tell all.)
Auntie Em's Kitchen: Red and green and ornaments and peppermint and elves are up and down every aisle of the stores these days, but it is still autumn, and the trees are actually changing around Southern California. The Autumn Leaves Cake is a November-nice choice for the holiday table, and a good way to be in the season, and the moment, deliciously.
Salt & Straw: The Larchmont outpost of the Portland-started ice cream shop is getting a SoCal sibling in Studio City next year, but as of right now the story is all about fall-esque flavors: sweet potato with maple pecans, apple cranberry stuffing, and such. Want to show with a packed pint? You can. Just be ready to be the talk of T Day with your pint of salted caramel Thanksgiving turkey ice cream.